Marine Pollution – Questions from LegCo:
Wednesday, March 9, 2005
Section 50 of the Shipping and Port Control Ordinance (Cap. 313) stipulates that no vessel in the waters of Hong Kong shall emit smoke in such quantity as to be a nuisance, except in circumstances affecting the safety of life or of the vessel. Regarding the emissions from vessels, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the respective numbers of complaints received by the authorities concerned about emission of smoke from vessels, verbal warnings issued to and prosecutions instituted against the shipowners concerned by the Marine Department, and convictions in the past three years;
(b) whether it has assessed the adequacy of the current arrangement whereby law enforcement actions are taken by the Marine Department only; whether it will consider empowering the Environmental Protection Department to take law enforcement actions in this respect, particularly in cases involving excessive smoke emitted from the vessels berthing at the piers along both sides of the Victoria Harbour (for example, the Ocean Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui and piers for inner harbour and outlying island services);
(c) given that the above provision only targets the quantity of smoke emitted from vessels and does not specify limits on the concentrations of various harmful substances contained in the smoke, whether it will consider amending the legislation to specify the emission standards applicable to vessels;
(d) whether it has conducted tests on the concentrations of harmful substances in the emissions from vessels and assessed their impact on public health and the air quality; and
(e) whether it will draw up measures to encourage the installation of emission reduction devices in vessels?
Marine Pollution – Answers From Governement
(a) The numbers of complaints received, warnings issued and prosecutions instituted by the Marine Department (MD) regarding emission of smoke from vessels during 2002 to 2004 are as follows:
(b) Emissions from vessel engines are subject to control under the Shipping and Port Control Ordinance (the Ordinance) (Cap. 313). As the enforcement of the Ordinance requires marine expertise and relevant equipment, the responsibility rests with the MD. Upon receiving a complaint about emission of smoke from a vessel, the Environment Protection Department (EPD) will refer the case to the MD for follow-up action.
(c) At present, it is an offence under the Ordinance for a vessel to “emit smoke in such quantity as to be a nuisance”. The Government is considering amendment to the relevant provisions so that the Ringelmann Chart as adopted in the Air Pollution Control Ordinance (Cap. 311) will be used to determine the concentration of smoke. When the concentration of smoke emitted by a vessel exceeds the statutory limit for a specified period of time, prosecution may be instituted.
(d) As regards other pollutants, most vessels operating in Hong Kong waters use diesel or fuel oil. The air pollutants produced by the combustion of these fuels are more or less the same as those emitted by other fuel-related emission sources, such as diesel vehicles, power generation facilities or industrial boilers. The major pollutants include nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur dioxide (SO2), suspended particulates and carbon monoxide (CO). According to the estimates by the EPD, the amounts of suspended particulates, SO2, NOx and CO emitted by vessels in 2003 accounted for about 6%, 4%, 16% and 3% respectively of the total emissions in Hong Kong. In contrast with the terrestrial environment, the expanse of the sea facilitates the dispersal of smoke and vessel emissions thus have a smaller impact on the public than other emission sources in urban areas such as vehicles.
(e) To further reduce vessel emissions, the Government is considering how to implement the proposed controls on vessel emissions in the new annex (Annex VI) of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships. The Government is now consulting the industry on the matter.